Year Inducted: 1949 (BBWAA, ballot #6, 159/187, runoff)
Consistency is something that is a valuable commodity in baseball. When it comes to the Hall of Fame, consistency can sometimes be overvalued. A consistently average pitcher over 20 seasons, while being fairly remarkable, will sometimes put up numbers that make him look greater than he really was. The same is true of hitters. However, what makes a player like Eddie Murray or Hank Aaron amazing was that they were consistently great. Both players were constantly among the top players in their leagues, and could do that for a long time. Power hitters tend to be the more consistent hitters, but it isn’t always the case. One player that was a consistent hitter without a lot of power (in a classic sense) was Detroit second baseman, Charlie Gehringer.
Gehringer was a quiet, consistently great player in all facets of the game. In his 19-year career, spent entirely in the Motor City, Gehringer hit .320/.404/.480 with a wRC+ of 124. In his career, Gehringer collected 574 doubles, 146 doubles and 184 triples. Gehringer didn’t have a ton of home run power (and Tiger Stadium was a decent pitcher’s park), Gehringer’s line drive style of hitting helped him drive tons of doubles in the outfield gaps. It also helped Gehringer drive in runs at a high rate. In seven of his seasons, Gehringer collected over 100 RBI and managed to drive in 1427 in his career. He also stole over 180 bases and scored over 1700 times. Gehringer was a dynamic and valuable offensive player.
Defensively, Gehringer was one of the best ever. Gehringer’s 105 defensive runs showed him for what he was. He wasn’t as flashy with the glove like Frankie Frisch or Johnny Evers were, but was solid and consistent like he was with the bat.
When he retired, Gehringer ranked second in homers and runs scored, third in RBI and fourth in fWAR. Gehringer should have been an easy pick for induction, but still had to wait for his sixth ballot. There are some scholars that think a lot of the players between 1936 and 1962 being delayed beyond first ballot was due to the large backlog from the first few years. And while there is some truth to that, it doesn’t always apply. Especially when there are years that the BBWAA don’t induct anyone on the initial ballot and have to hold a runoff ballot. Gehringer was inducted on a runoff ballot in his 6th year of eligibility. Gehringer should have been inducted on his first ballot, and certainly should not have had to be on a runoff ballot. Sometimes consistency just pays off.
Stay tuned for the next updates.
On deck, 12/10/16:
#21- The best hitting catcher of all-time
#20- The best pitcher ever